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Wild West road trip Day9 Oregon trail and Craters of the Moon
 
 
(Click on the images for a larger version.)
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We began the ninth day of our Wild West road trip with the biggest flop of the vacation.
 
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Our goal was to see Hell's Canyon in Oregon. The Lonely Planet said it was deeper than the Grand Canyon so we figured it was worth a look.
 
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We drove down small windy roads for a couple hours before deciding
 
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that this hydroelectric dam was the best thing we were going to see. All of the best spots were really far and/or require a 4WD vehicle to traverse the gravel mountain roads.
 
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So we aborted that mission and headed to
 
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Three Island State Park -- one of the major barriers on the Oregon Trail.
 
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At this point in the Oregon Trail, folks had to make a major decision. Either cross the Snake River at this thin portion in July or August when the water was lowest, or continue on via the Southern route, which was much more difficult.

A lot of folks died making the cross.
 
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The suggested supplies for the trip of four people according to "Emigrant's Guide to California" by Joseph E. Ware: 824 lbs flour, 725 lbs bacon, 200 lbs beans, 135 lbs peaches or apples, 75 lbs coffee, 160 lbs sugar, 200 lbs lard, 25 lbs salt, pepper, and baking soda.
 
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You can still see the trail carved out by all of the wagons heading up the hill on the other side of the river (in the center of the picture on the hill there is a diagonal trail heading from the bottom to the top of the hill).
 
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Eventually, some clever person decided to build a Ferry, so that people could pay to cross the river without risking their lives. A town rose up around the ferry business, and the town still bears the name Glenn's Ferry.
 
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After leaving Glenn's Ferry, we headed to one of the hidden gems of the trip:
 
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Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.
 
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Geographically, the United States has almost everything, mountains, rivers, lakes, deserts, alpine forests, tundra,
 
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and now on the road in front of us we could see lava.
 
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This lava wreaked havoc on the folks traveling the Oregon Trail. They avoided the lava as much as possible. The short stretches where they did have to ride over lava left the trail strewn with broken wagon parts.
 
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Inside the park, I made friends
 
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with a chipmunk.
 
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There was a campground in the park, which would make a really neat place to camp.
 
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Our car looked
 
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cool
 
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on the lava.
 
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Most of the lava in the park doesn't derive from the typical volcanic explosions associated with lava. Rather, cracks in the earth called the Great Rift, ooze lava occasionally.
 
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The newer areas of lava
 
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are still
 
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around 2000 years old,
 
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which is only enough time for
 
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a small amount of vegetation to arrive.

Lichens arrive first, breaking down the lava rock with their acids to create a dark soil. Wind brings in most of the soil from the outside, and when it falls in the crevices of the lava, flowers and plants start to grow.
 
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There were very few tourists at this hard-to-believe-it's-Idaho park. Just Ilaria, myself,
 
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the developing one, and few Europeans we met.
 
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This giant lava-gravel-hill thing was my favorite part of the park. Because of the dark, uniform color it was really hard to judge how high the hill was. It appeared to go on forever.
 
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Ilaria with her load of an extra person in tow, stopped
 
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and I ran to the top to take some
 
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photos.
 
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Running up that hill wasn't the best idea, as it was deceivingly far to the top, plus the air was extremely dry. I thought I might be sick at the top, but I found my breath.
 
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And we carried on.

Here's one of the craters.
 
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The last part of the park was a series
 
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of trails leading to
 
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lava
 
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caves.
 
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These lava
 
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caves
 
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are formed when the exterior of a lava flow cools, while a hot fluid lava river continues to flow beneath the surface. When the lava all eventual cools and hardens, sometimes these caves are left behind.
 
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The lava at Crater's of the Moon wasn't as impressive as the newer more violent lava forms that make up the entire country of Iceland,
 
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but it was definitely a site worth seeing and baffling to find such a thing
 
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in middle-of-nowhere Idaho.
 
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We drove through Arco, the first city lit by Atomic Power (there's a DOE nuclear research lab nearby)
 
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on our way
 
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to our hotel
 
wild west map day 9  1
in Pocatello, ID.